Pop Music Reviews : Walker Burns With Talent Big as Texas
Jerry Jeff Walker sings about old pickup trucks, steak-and-eggs cafes, wide-open roads, the love of a faithful woman, crumbling tombstones, old men with guitars.
So adept is Walker at evoking the spirit of his home state that by the time he finished playing Wednesday at the Coach House, the tidy, Southern California nightclub felt more like a beer-soaked Texas roadhouse.
Dressed in a black cowboy hat, jeans and T-shirt, Walker, along with Gonzo Compadres band, turned in a performance that was by turns intimate and electrifying, down-home and exhilarating.
His voice a well-deep, rumbling twang as comfortable and unaffected as a beat-up old cowboy boot, Walker exuded Lone Star charm, charisma and a rare affinity for connecting with a crowd. As a performer, he’s as natural and sincere as they come.
For their part, the Gonzo Compadres--guitarist Johnny Inmon, drummer Freddie Krc and bassist Bob Livingston--provided a surprisingly lush and full sound for so sparse a group.
Particularly amazing was Inmon, one of the finest young guitar hotshots to come down the pike since Stevie Ray. His hyper-speed, Southern rock lines hit like Dickey Betts on amphetamines, his moody bends came from other galaxies, his hillbilly picking would have had you swearing there was a pedal steel player on stage. Again and again, his astonishing virtuosity brought the packed house to its feet, as he proved to be an unexpected and much-appreciated highlight of a fine show.
Walker, 52, had no trouble whatsoever keeping up with his backing musicians, all of whom appeared to be in their 20s. With the enthusiasm of a man half his age, Walker genuinely appeared to be having himself a grand old time as he poured sweat, dipped, dodged and gesticulated to punctuate the lyrics to his songs.
From the up-tempo country rockers to the mournful ballads and yodeled backwoods celebrations, Walker sang them all with genuine feeling and beauty. On some pieces, Walker would back away from his microphone, a smile as big as Texas itself parting his lips as his fiercely dedicated fans sang all the lines themselves.
Walker performed all the expected hits, including “Up Against the Wall, Red Neck,” “L.A. Freeway” and “Mr. Bojangles,” as well as a cross section of material from his 30-plus year career and highlights from his excellent new album, “Viva Luckenbach.”
Walker is that rarity in contemporary music: an artist who goes out of his way to give people their money’s worth and seems to enjoy every minute of it.